Athlete of the week: Ross Orrock, Elk River, softball: Batsman, bowman
by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Whenever Ross Orrock has a softball bat in his meaty hands, or a bow-and-arrow, shotgun or fishing rod, he’s a happy fellow. The 6-foot, 230-pound sportsman puts up some lofty stats in all those pursuits, too.
Orrock is the second baseman and cleanup hitter for Sunshine Depot, leading the squad with 13 home runs and 66 RBI in 35 games, while hitting .540 with 22 doubles and 50 runs. His team is 9-6-1 Monday nights and 7-5 Tuesday nights. He also plays in Roseville occasionally on Wednesdays and has 17 homers total.
Orrock played for Avalar the last three years, helping them win the Monday championship each year. He’s hit close to .600 for Avalar but was less of a homerun hitter then, withsix last year.
“I’ve been playing softball a long time now and I’m just getting the hang of it more,” Orrock said about the big increase in dingers. “I’m playing twice a week now, sometimes three, instead of one. Plus, I don’t have my baseball swing any more.”
Orrock played third base for the Elk River Pioneers but dropped town-team ball this summer after four seasons, mainly because it became a strain to play a night game on the road and get up at six to work.
At ERHS, Orrock played baseball and was backup goalie on a state tournament-qualifying hockey team. He has stayed in hockey as a volunteer coach, with bantams in Duluth and with an AAA team, the Minnesota Miners, experiences that led to an exciting opportunity for him. More on the later.
Hunting and fishing are his other sporting passions, inherited from his sportsman father, Todd. He especially enjoys hunting white-tail deer. “I’ve gotten close to 20 of them, I’d guess,” said Orrock, adding that he got nine of them by bow and the rest by shotgun. With his bow he also target shoots regularly at Elk River Gun Club. His favorite fishing venture is snagging walleyes at his grandparents’ cabin near Backus.
Orrock switched to Sunshine Depot, managed by his friend Mike Wollak, this year in order to have a chance to qualify for a state tournament. The Avalar guys played on other teams with whom they would try for ‘state.’ “So I didn’t have a team to go with. Now I do,” said Orrock, looking forward to a state and national qualifiers coming up.
Orrock’s chosen career is special education teacher. He has only his student-teaching left to before receiving his degree at St. Cloud State. Working with a group home, Comprehensive Services, in the summer, he has helped out with Special Olympics. He also serves as a big-brother type mentor in a YMCA program.
“After working with Special Olympics, I thought special ed was something I’d like to do,” said Orrock.
His teaching career may be on hold, as he was recently hired as assistant coach with the Yellowstone Quake, a Wyoming juniors hockey team in the Norpac League, whom he’ll join in early August.
“They called me after I got a referral from a buddy of mine,” said Orrock. “I’ll work with goalies and defense. I can’t wait.” He adds: “I want to teach, but I’ll see where hockey takes me first. I don’t know if I’d get an opportunity like this again.”
Association with sports teams remains a big appeal for this young athlete. Asked about his new status as a longball hitter, he reflected, “Homers are fun, but my favorite thing about softball is just hanging around with the guys.”
THE ORROCK SCORECARD
Personal file — Age: 23 … Family: parents Todd and Becky; brothers Ryan, 25, and Jared, 21 … Occupation: education major at St. Cloud State; will coach juniors hockey in Wyoming starting in August … Sports: softball, coaching hockey
Favorite stuff — TV show: “Bone Collectors” (hunting) … Movie: “Tommyboy” … Team: Texas Longhorns baseball … Athlete: Jason Kubel … Food: deer heart … Drink: Mt. Dew … Reading: Outdoor News … Kickback: fishing, hunting … Place he’d like to visit: “Oh, Alaska for sure.”